[EM] proxy ideas: continual consideration, and proxy committees

James Green-Armytage jgreen1 at antioch.edu
Fri Mar 26 03:54:20 PDT 2010

Dear election methods fans,

It's good to see that this list is still alive and well. I attended the
public choice society meeting in Monterey two weeks ago, and it made me
think of the list. Really there is a lot of overlap between the two. 

Anyway, as some of you know, I've been thinking about proxy voting systems
for a long time, but for some reason I've been a bit leery about
attempting to publish anything formally. Well, I've decided that this is
silly of me. There is already a fairly recent (2006) paper about proxy
voting in the Public Choice journal (by Dan Alger), so there's no need to
write a paper that simply introduces the concept. What I'd like to do
instead is to write a paper that reviews as many as possible of the
different ideas and applications that people have come up with (I'd like
the online literature to get some recognition in the academic literature),
and then introduces an idea or two of my own, probably focusing around the
idea of "continual consideration of all issues". 

So, I have two topics to address with you all:
1. To ask for any references that you think I should include. 
2. To introduce and discuss the idea that I will probably want to focus
on, which is "continual consideration of all issues", plus one more idea,
which is the idea of "proxy committees".  


Let's start with the call for references. Basically anyone who can shed
any light on the history of the proxy democracy concept will be helpful at
this stage. Citable papers (whether published formally, published online,
or unpublished as long as some date of origin can be established or
reliably vouched for) are useful, and organizations who have promoted
proxy voting are useful as well. So far I've found a few excellent sources
via the wikipedia page for proxy voting, so thank you to those of you who
helped to build that page. Here are a few of the references that I want to
include so far:
Tullock, Gordon: Toward a Mathematics of Politics. University of Michigan
Press, 144-157.
Miller, James: A Program for Direct and Proxy Voting in the Legislative
Process. Public Choice 7 (Fall 1969), 107-113.
Black, Duncan: Lewis Carroll and the Theory of Games. The American
Economic Review 59:2 (May 1969), 206-210.
Ford, Bryan: Delegative Democracy. Unpublished manuscript, dated 2002.
Alger, Dan: Voting by Proxy. Public Choice 126 (2006), 1-26.
Yamakawa, Hiroshi, Michiko Yoshida, and Motohiro Tsuchiya: Toward
Delegated Democracy: Vote by Yourself, or Trust Your Network. World
Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (Spring 2007), 146-150 
Plus one or two of my own online papers, I suppose. 

I'd like to say something about Demoex, but I'm not quite sure what paper
to use. There is one called "Flexible Representation by Use of Delegated
Voting", which seems pretty good. It's in Swedish, but I can probably get
the gist using google translate. Likewise I'd like to say something about
Vivarto, but I'm not sure exactly what. I'd like to say something about
Abd's work on free association delegable proxy, and I'd like to know if
there's a specific core document that I can cite for that. I see
references to something called Liquid Democracy here and there, but so far
I haven't been able to find a specific document for that either. Does
anyone know about this? If there's anything else important that I'm
missing so far (and I would have to imagine that there is), please let me

=== 2. NEW PROXY IDEAS ===

Now on to the introduction of new ideas.

2.1. "Continual consideration of all issues": (One of the more futuristic,
utopian versions of the proxy democracy concept.) The basic idea here is
that everyone has a computer account that stores their vote on every
single political issue in their nation or jurisdiction, of which there may
be thousands. Included are issues that may have already been voted on, but
have ongoing effects, and can be feasibly changed or reversed in the
future. Anyone can go ahead and change their vote on one of these issues
at any time, and there will be a central database that keeps track of
these changes, and continues to aggregate them into a majority position,
which may change over time. In the interest of stability, I'd say that
policy doesn't change immediately when this majority position changes, but
rather that the legislature and/or executive have some discretion in terms
of delaying any policy change until a period of public focus and
discussion on the issue can take place.

The reasoning behind this idea, of course, is that it would vastly expand
the number of issues that people can formally act on at any given time.
Without this system, there may be many issues on which the majority
opinion differs substantially from the status quo, but the political
system does not take notice, because it can only handle a few things at a

Of course, this idea would be ridiculously impractical without the use of
some kind of proxy system. For example, when you first sign on to the
system (e.g. at age 18 or whatever), you have nothing but thousands of
blank issues with no preference registered. Rather than filling them all
out one by one, which would take far too long, you can start by simply
naming a proxy, i.e. someone who has elected to make their own votes
known. Then, immediately you have all of your issues filled in, and they
will track any vote changes that your proxy makes. Beyond this, you can go
on to customize it as much as you like. You can view your votes as they
stand, and change them individually if you find that you disagree with
your proxy's position. You can, for a single issue or for a category of
issues, indicate a different proxy. And so on.

2.2. "Proxy committees": Instead of naming a single person as my proxy, I
can name a list of people, to serve as sort of a virtual committee that
decides just my own vote. Perhaps I should be able to assign them
different voting weights, but this doesn't seem important. Now, my vote
will be cast according to the majority opinion of my committee. For
example, if I create a committee with 9 proxies, and 6 vote yes on an
issue while 3 vote no, then I automatically vote yes on that issue. 

The reasoning behind this idea is that I may be aware of several people
whose views are likely to be fairly close to my own, but I may not know
whose views are the closest. One way of looking at it is that I view
others' positions with some error, and I'm reducing the risk that my vote
will be cast very far from my own. Actually, if I think of current
politicians (e.g. on a national scale), I would personally feel more
comfortable creating a committee than choosing one person to be my sole
representative. Another interesting feature of this is that I could
program the computer to alert me whenever the vote on my committee is
relatively close. In this case, it would be more likely than most to be
something that I'd like to take a look at for myself. 

Note of course that these two ideas can be combined, i.e. proxy committees
can be readily worked into the continual consideration framework.

I've pasted a copy of my 2007 proxy paper below. (I wrote this in 2007,
then posted it to
http://fc.antioch.edu/~james_green-armytage/vm/proxy2007.htm last January
-- I'm surprised to find that I didn't post it here as well.) I talk about
the continual recalculation idea in section 4, but it's only a few
paragraphs; in the new paper, I'm going to try to expand on that a bit.
This is the first time that I've posted the proxy committee idea online.

my best,
James Green-Armytage

=== 2007 PROXY PAPER ===

Summary: It is commonly believed that "pure" democracy conflicts with
practicality; here I will attempt to illustrate how this conflict may be

1.  Introduction

1A.  Problems with traditional direct democracy systems

       In traditional direct democracy systems, negative consequences may
arise due to voters' lack of information, or due to the cost of voters
acquiring full information.  If many citizens vote despite being poorly
informed, then public decisions are likely to be somewhat arbitrary, and
perhaps easily manipulable by public relations campaigns.  If many
citizens decline to vote because they are poorly informed, then the system
may become a discriminatory one, excluding the values held by people in
particular sectors of society. 

       On the other hand, if nearly all citizens do take the time to
become fully informed on all public issues, this may excessively remove
some people's attention from other valuable endeavors.  One could argue
that there would be a certain amount of wastefully redundant effort in
this last scenario. 

       Thus, I argue that traditional direct democracy systems are
fundamentally impractical.


1B.  Problems with traditional representative democracy systems

       On the other hand, traditional representative democracy systems are
only weakly democratic.  That is, first of all, individual citizens cannot
vote directly on policy.  Second, although citizens may participate in
elections, they can't really choose their representatives in the strict
sense.  Very few individuals are represented by their first choice among
potential representatives.  Instead, many citizens are "represented" by
people whose views and values are radically different from their own, and
who tend to make fundamentally opposed choices when faced with
controversial social decisions. 

       In traditional representation systems, voters' positions on
hundreds of social issues must be reduced to choices between candidates or
parties, resulting in massive information loss.  Some electoral systems
(e.g.  single transferable vote with a fairly high district magnitude) can
mitigate this problem, but they can't eliminate it.

       Furthermore, the information problems posed by direct democracy
systems are not completely solved by representative democracy systems. 
Just as many citizens are likely to be uninformed about policy choices,
many are also likely to be uninformed about political candidates,
especially in a large nation where most voters do not know the candidates
personally, and where there are numerous elected offices on multiple
levels of government.  Again, there is a choice between not voting (a
discriminatory system), voting blindly (an arbitrary system), and becoming
fully informed (arguably an inefficient system, in many cases).

       Thus, representation tends to be "inaccurate" to the extent that
voters do not agree with their representatives, and/or do not know about
their representatives.  Given inaccurate representation of this type, it
seems unlikely that decisions made by elected representatives will closely
resemble the decision that the people as a whole would have made, had they
been fully informed.


1C.  The premise of a proxy system

       I suggest that, if a political system is to be called "fully
democratic", it should give me as a citizen the right to be represented by
whomever I choose (provided of course that the person is willing to serve
in this capacity).  Thus, I should be able to vote directly on issues if I
choose, and I should also be able to appoint a proxy in my stead, if I
feel insufficiently informed about a given issue.  Presumably, I will tend
to choose as a proxy someone whom I know well, whom I believe to have
integrity, and who shares my views and values; in other words, the person
whom I deem most likely to make the same choices that I would make if I
was well-informed. 

       Furthermore, if I name a proxy, he should have the option to
re-delegate his voting power and mine to another proxy in turn.  This
provision is essential in cases where the number of people who eventually
vote on the issue is much smaller than the citizenry as a whole, as many
citizens may not be sufficiently familiar with the members of the voting
group to decide which one most accurately represents them.  Presumably,
accuracy of representation is roughly transitive, i.e.  if B accurately
represents A, and C accurately represents B, then it is likely that C
represents A with reasonable accuracy.  If so, it follows that proxy
systems will tend to yield social decisions similar to those that would be
reached via direct democracy if the whole citizenry was well informed, but
without the associated costs.  

       The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: In part two, I
discuss how a proxy system could be used to supplement traditional
representative government with periodic direct issue votes.  In parts
three and four, I discuss how it could be used to replace traditional
legislatures altogether.  


2.  Direct democracy by proxy

       In this section, I discuss how a proxy system could be used to
supplement traditional representative government with periodic direct
issue votes.  In other words, I'm interested in improving existing systems
for initiatives and referenda, and expanding them to wider use (e.g.  a
federal direct democracy system for the U.S.A.).   My proposal is as


2A.  Basic system

       Let's say that I'm a voter arriving at my local polling station on
the day that one or more issues are to be decided via direct vote.  I have
the option of voting directly on each issue (or formally abstaining).  I
also have the option of deferring my vote to a proxy of my choosing. 
There is no minimum threshold of votes needed for anyone to serve as a

       If my proxy votes directly on the issue, then the weight of my vote
is added to his.  If my proxy doesn't vote directly on the issue, but
rather names another proxy in turn, then the weight of my vote and the
weight of my proxy's vote are both carried by this second proxy.  There is
no limit to the number of times that a vote can be transferred along a
proxy chain in this way. 

       Even when there are multiple issues on the same ballot, I should
have the option of indicating separate proxies for separate issues, while
still voting directly on other issues, if I choose.  This would allow me
to defer votes to specialists in particular policy areas.


2B.  Provision for multiple options

       It is worth mentioning here that very few substantial social
decisions can be reduced to a simple up or down vote.  Hence, in order to
make this an effective social choice process, it's important to allow
voters to express preferences between an appropriately wide range of
options.  When majority rule is the goal, the ballot should allow a
ranking of the options, and the tally method should be Condorcet
efficient.  In case of a majority rule cycle, several possible resolution
methods exist, for example ranked pairs, beatpath, cardinal pairwise, and
Smith/IRV.  For majority rule when the options can be reasonably arranged
into a one dimensional spectrum (and preferences can be assumed to be
single-peaked), it should be sufficient to ask each voter to specify their
preferred point, and select the median position.  If proportional
representation is more appropriate than majority rule for a particular
issue, then some form of single transferable vote should be used as the
tally method.  Other ballot types are possible when appropriate for a
given issue, for example, an up or down vote, a series of up or down
votes, an approval vote, a cardinal (rating scale) vote, or a vote that
combines two or more of these methods.


2C.  Frequency and bindingness

       The legal standing of the direct votes, and their frequency (the
number of ballots per year and the number of issues per ballot), are
simply matters of political choice.  For example, the system itself could
be initially non-binding, but with most elected officials pledged to
follow the results except in extraordinary circumstances.  Or, it could be
legally binding, but subject to veto by the legislature, executive,
judiciary, etc.  Direct votes could take place once per year, once per
month, etc. 


2D.  Logistics and privacy

       I primarily envision the voting taking place at officially
designated polling stations (although internet voting might also be
possible, if security and privacy can be assured, and if it can be done
without disadvantaging those without internet service).  Prior to voting
day, a computer file is compiled that lists all those who have volunteered
to serve as proxies; when voters arrive at the polls, they can then choose
the person whom they would like to represent them.  I would suggest that
proxies' votes should be a matter of public record, unless bribery or
political intimidation seems to be an especially serious problem.  The
advantage of this is that voters will be able to directly verify that
their proxy voted in a certain way, if necessary.  (A possible alternative
would be to keep each proxy's voting record in a secure file, and allow
them to distribute the password to the file at their own discretion.)


2E.  Issue generation

       I propose that some issues to be decided by direct voting could be
generated by the legislature, while others are generated by the public
process itself.  For issue-generation inside the legislature, I suggest a
system of single transferable vote (STV) proportional representation.  For
example, the legislators could take an STV vote to fill a certain fixed
number of slots for issues in an upcoming direct vote. 

       For issue-generation outside the legislature, I propose that issues
should first be nominated via a public process (e.g.  petitions), and that
nominated issues should then be placed on a ballot for a direct
agenda-setting vote.  (Of course, we do not need to drag voters to the
polls just to do an agenda-setting vote; it can be put on the ballot with
other issues.) The public agenda-setting vote can also be based on STV,
filling a fixed number of slots.

       For example, a fairly conservative proposal would be to allow
voters to decide which issues to vote on when they come to the polls for
regularly scheduled primary elections, and then to actually vote on the
issues (plus those proposed by the legislature) in the general election. 
A more ambitious proposal would involve adding additional voting days, to
accommodate multiple direct voting sessions per year.


2F.  Option generation

       Once it has been decided that there will be a direct vote on a
given issue, the next step is to generate the different options that
voters will choose from when voting that issue.  The goal here is to
ensure that the Condorcet-dominant option isn't left off the ballot.

       Option-generation inside the legislature: Again, an STV vote is
logical, but in this case, an option called "no additional option" should
be in competition with the other options that have been proposed.

       Option-generation outside the legislature: There should also be a
public process for generating options.  Probably it is too cumbersome to
have a separate vote just for this; it should be sufficient to let the
legislature submit their options first, and then give the public an
opportunity to submit more options by petition if enough people feel that
an important and viable alternative has been left out. 


2G.  Remuneration

       It would be possible to provide some remuneration to those who
serve as proxies, although it's not clear to me whether this is desirable
or not.  The argument in favor of proxy remuneration is that the extra
money could help them do good policy research, by allowing them to reduce
the hours they spend at other jobs, and in some cases by allowing them to
hire research staff and acquire research-facilitating capital.  The money
may also serve as an incentive to do good research (in order to earn more
proxy votes).  The argument against it, aside from the cost, is that it
might produce incentives for people to obfuscate their views and
over-represent their understanding of policy in an attempt to advertise

       Various proxy remuneration formulas are possible; for example, my
remuneration could be based on the number of votes I cast, or on the
number of people who directly choose me as a proxy.  There should probably
be an upward limit to the amount of money that any one person can receive
as a result of this process.


2H.  Model voting

       Under current election systems, when voters do not have a great
deal of information about the candidates or issues that they're voting on,
they often choose based on endorsements, i.e.  recommendations from people
and organizations whose opinions they value.  In a sense, this already
gives us some elements of a proxy system.  Hence, I suggest "model
voting", which is a less radical alternative that nonetheless approximates
a proxy voting system:

       Again, there is a voting day, and I arrive at the polling station
to vote on a number of issues.  The equivalent of proxies in this system
can be called "models".  They are people and organizations who have
agreed, ahead of the voting day, to submit a model ballot, i.e.  their
recommended vote on each of the issues, plus perhaps some commentary on
each, if they choose.  While I am filling out my ballot, I can search
through the database of these ballots to find the recommendations of any
given model.  I can take this information under advisement, but I still
vote however I choose.  For example, I can copy all of my votes directly
from one model ballot, I can view several before I make a decision on each
issue, or I can vote without looking at any model ballots at all. 

       In this system, the "proxy" component of the process is not even a
formal part of the voting structure, but nevertheless voters are given
convenient (essentially costless) access to a wealth of information. 
Given adequate models (people or groups who are well known to the voter,
who have similar values but are more well-informed on particular issues),
the model ballots should give voters a relatively reliable indication of
how they would vote on each issue if they were fully informed, with a
minimum of wasted effort, i.e.  a maximum of efficiency.

       Note that this system gives voters a great deal of privacy.  Even
if I serve as a model voter by submitting a model ballot to the database,
I am not under any obligation whatsoever to actually vote in accordance
with it, and so my actual vote officially remains a secret.

       The model voting analogue of the "re-delegation" feature of a proxy
system would be a process whereby different people who intend to submit
model votes communicate with one another prior to the submission date.  To
facilitate this, it would be helpful to have a web site where people can
discuss upcoming legislation, and post provisional voting intention on
individual user pages.  (Actually, even in the absence of any official
proxy voting or model voting system, this kind of site could improve voter
information and participation.)

       Note that a model voting system prevents the problem of "proxy
loops" from arising.  Under some proxy systems, it is possible in theory
to have a troublesome situation where A chooses B as a proxy, and B
chooses A, so that neither vote can actually be cast.  (Longer loops
involving three or more people are also possible.) There are a number of
ways to solve this problem (e.g.  ranked proxy lists, a provision for a
second vote, etc.), but this particular system happens to make such
solutions unnecessary.


3.  Representation by proxy

       In this section, I discuss how a proxy system can be used as a
basis for political representation, i.e.  as a method to determine the
composition of the legislature and the relative voting power of its
members.  What I propose is as follows:


3A.  Basic system

       I can name anyone as a proxy, provided that they have agreed to
serve.  Ideally, I should be able to change my proxy at any time.  I can
also decline to name a proxy, if I prefer.  Whenever there is a  vote
(presumably several times per day when the legislature is in session), I
can choose to cast my vote directly (along with any proxies I may hold). 
If I decline to do so, then the weight of my vote(s) will be passed to my


3B.  Legislators and independent voters

       Although every citizen is in principle empowered to vote on every
issue, I see an advantage to having a legislative chamber where
individuals with a large amount of voting power should be able to gather,
engage in debate, and cast votes.  To make debate manageable, and to have
a legislative chamber that is reasonably small (i.e.  not the size of a
stadium), it seems reasonable to set a number of people apart as
privileged "legislators" (who could be called representatives, members of
parliament, senators, etc.).  A legislator would serve a fixed term, draw
a salary from the government, and would be given a budget to hire policy
research staff.  My preferred system for selecting the legislators would
be to hold a public STV vote at regular intervals (e.g.  every two years),
and allow citizens to delegate their vote to proxies (so that the
distribution of voting power within the proxy system largely determines
who gets a seat).

       If the legislative chamber only accommodates a limited number of
people, then how will people vote if they are not legislators? In theory,
they could watch the proceedings within the legislature via a live feed,
and then vote over the internet.  (If each person's vote is a matter of
public record, then the security/authenticity of the internet-based vote
should not be a problem.) Of course, when I vote independently in this
way, my proxy can't carry my voting weight as well; hence the system needs
to keep track of who is voting independently, and deduct their weight from
their proxies' usual totals.


3C.  Elections and secret ballots

       Even though voters should be able to change proxies at will, there
are still several reasons to have specific days for public voting.  First,
I recommend that all standing proxy arrangements should be cleared on
election day, so that voters who want to keep their current proxy need to
return to the polls to renew the designation.  (Of course, if I miss the
election, I could renew my proxy designation at a later time; the only
disadvantage of this is being unrepresented for a short period.) The point
of this is to prevent someone from letting a proxy stand for decades
without being engaged in the process at all.

       Second, an election day could also be used to encourage
participation in votes on particularly important issues.  In this way, the
direct democracy proposal (part 2 of this paper) can be incorporated into
the representation proposal (part 3).  This should include elections for
executive offices.

       Third, an election day would provide the opportunity for secret
ballots.  Those who don't want there to be any records whatsoever of who
their representative is could formally designate anonymity, which would
give them the right to cast a secret ballot (the kind that is now standard
in most elections).  If they did this, however, they wouldn't be able to
cast independent votes during the subsequent period, because the system
wouldn't know which proxy to remove their vote from.


3D.  Divided votes method

       Independent voting, as described above, may be a costly process for
some voters.  For example, they may have limited internet access, they may
have other responsibilities to take care of at the time when a given vote
is taking place, or they might not want their vote to be a matter of
public record.  Thus, I suggest a more decentralized method for
quasi-independent voting:

       Members of the legislature (and other individuals who hold proxies)
should be empowered to vote in a heterogeneous way.  For example, imagine
that I am a legislator, and that there is an upcoming yes/no vote.  Once a
vote has been scheduled, I may describe the issue to my constituency,
indicate that I intend to vote "yes", and presumably provide some
rationale for my decision.  However, I invite dissenting votes from my
constituency.  Let's say that I have one million constituents, and one
hundred thousand of them (most likely including proxies that represent
more than one person) indicate to me that they would like to vote "no".  I
can then cast 900,000 "yes" votes, and 100,000 "no" votes.  When an
important and controversial issue comes up, there should be a natural
procedural break between the announcement of a vote and the vote itself,
to give proxies a chance to check in with their constituents, and allow
time for dissenting votes to be submitted.  Proxies and constituents can
communicate by internet, mail, phone, face-to-face conversation, or any
other medium that they prefer.  Each proxy can make independent decisions
regarding the privacy and security of their communication system.


4.  Continual recalculation of majority positions

       This is somewhat more ambitious than the preceding proposals, but I
find it worth noting that a more advanced democratic system could allow
people to cast or change their vote on issues even when the legislature is
not focusing on them.  This system would work as follows:

       When I register to vote for the first time, I gain the ability to
cast a vote on any of the hundreds or thousands of issues that have been
voted on in the past, and which continue to be relevant to current policy.
 (Presumably, the system would be mostly internet-based.) I can log onto
the system at any time during my life to vote on more issues, or to change
any of my previous votes.  When I indicate a proxy, the system gives my
voting power to my proxy on all of the issues that I haven't voted on. 
Thus, when I change my proxy, my votes on the issues I have omitted are
now cast according to the preferences of my new proxy, and if I don't
indicate a proxy, they are registered as abstentions.  When I die, my
voting weight is removed from the system.  (If people have indicated me as
a proxy, then perhaps their voting weight should be temporarily passed
along to a person whom I have named as a successor in the event of my

       Thus, on each issue, the distribution of votes among options will
gradually change as people register to vote, vote on issues, change their
votes, name proxies, change proxies, and die.  Over time, the majority
(Condorcet dominant) position may shift from one option (the status quo)
to another.  However, perhaps it is best if this does not, in itself,
automatically trigger a policy change, especially if such a change entails
some administrative cost, and if the majority position on this issue is
liable to change rather frequently.  Instead, I suggest that a policy
change should not occur unless the legislature (being as described in part
3) sets a specific date and time such that the majority position as of
that time will be enacted.  (It might help to hold a vote on the issue
when the deadline arrives, to highlight the issue.) This will prevent
policy changes from being excessively frequent, and it will give people a
chance to focus on the issue a bit more intensely before any change is

       When new issues arise, they can be voted on as described in part 3.
 After these votes are finalized, they can be added to the database of
past issues.  There should also be a process for removing issues from the
active part of this database when they are overruled by more recent votes,
or when they deal specifically with conditions that no longer exist. 

       The advantage of the continual recalculation method is that it
allows formal political engagement on an exhaustive range of issues at all
times.  In any society, the balance of majority opinion is likely to
gradually shift over time, but most political systems fail to adequately
keep track of these shifts.


5.  Conclusion

       I have attempted to demonstrate that a more democratic system of
government is both possible and practical.  In my opinion, the basic
concept of proxy voting should be regarded as an axiom of democracy: that
is, people should have the right to choose and representative they like,
including themselves.  I've described a few different possible proxy
voting structures, ranging from more modest proposals (e.g.  model voting)
to more ambitious ones (e.g.  continual recalculation).  Many nations
currently use some form of direct democracy, but it is typically fairly
limited in scope.  I believe that direct democracy systems that
incorporate proxy mechanisms, improved information flow, ranked ballots,
Condorcet efficient tallies, etc., will be able to expand to take a much
more central and effective role in government.  In the not-too-distant
past, technological constraints may have made a large scale proxy system
impractical, leaving traditional systems of representation and limited
direct voting as the most reasonable options.  Now, however, these systems
have become archaic, and the only constraint is political inertia.

       Application of the proxy concept is by no means limited to
governments.  Almost any organization with a sufficiently large membership
can potentially benefit by using it.  (E.g. labor unions, educational
institutions, religious institutions, etc.) For example, corporations
typically allow some form of proxy voting, but without the re-delegability
feature.  As a result, shareholders often do not know much about the
proxies whom they designate.  If corporations were required to allow for
re-delegation of proxies, then I as a small stockholder could potentially
delegate my votes to nonprofit organizations that shared my values with
regard to corporate policy.  This could help corporate policy to conform
more closely to the values of ordinary citizens, just as the general
proposal could help government policy to do the same. 

       Of course, this paper only serves as an introduction.  If proxy
voting is indeed a viable model for modern political systems, then an
enormous amount of analysis remains to be done.


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